Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cellophant and surgical tubing for my cello bow

My shoulders and arms are more tense than most - I think it stems from my slight curvature of the spine (or maybe not). I have the same "tenseness issue" when I do Lindy Hop/Swing dancing, which took me several years to get to the point of "relaxed, natural dancing." However, I've found that my tenseness has appeared again, but this time in my hands, which makes my hand cramp up easily, especially during faster bowing. Tenseness seems to occur every time I learn something new!

I've used the Cellophant from Things 4 Strings for awhile, which has helped me immensely. Before using the Cellophant I didn't know how a relaxed hand was supposed to feel like. Now that I know, I can adjust my hand until I feel the "relaxed-hand feeling."

I thought the next step would be using the surgical tubing. I decided to start using tubing since my teacher uses it on his expensive bows and when I tried Adam's bows, my hand felt much more relaxed! Adam even mentioned that it helps him during performances when his hand starts to sweat because it prevents his bow from sliding around.

Adam explained that adding the surgical tubing increases the diameter of the bow grip, which makes it easier for my hand to grip the area and obviously makes the surface area less slick. My bow definitely feels more slippery without the tubing, which causes my hand to become more tense because I feel like I have to grip the bow tighter to prevent it from slipping out of my hand.

This was the cheapest surgical tubing I found online: McMaster-Carr website. Type in "surgical tubing" in the search field to view the options. This website also doesn't require a minimum of 3 feet to purchase tubing like other websites.

I ordered tubing in black #1 and natural/amber #2 with the measurements below, which fit perfectly onto my bow:
Inside Diameter: 5/16
Outside Diameter: 7/16
Wall: 1/16

1st Order:
Line Quantity Item   Ships Unit Price Total Price  
#1 3 Ft. 5234K77
Super Soft Latex Rubber Tubing 5/16" ID, 7/16" OD, 1/16" Wall, Opaque Black (Same as 5234K47)
Monday morning $1.29 $3.87  
#2 1 Ft. 5234K34
Super Soft Latex Rubber Tubing 5/16" ID, 7/16" OD, 1/16" Wall, Semi-Clear Amber (Same as 5234K47)
Monday morning $1.29 $1.29  

I felt that the black tubing was more thin and less squishy than the amber/natural tubing, even though they had the same measurements, so I ordered thicker tubing by increasing the wall thickness. My next order below:

2nd Order:

DescriptionOrderedShippedBalanceUnit PriceTotal
#35234K78Super Soft Latex Rubber Tubing, 5/16" ID, 1/2" OD, 3/32" Wall, Opaque Black1
Per Foot
#45234K79Super Soft Latex Rubber Tubing, 5/16" ID, 9/16" OD, 1/8" Wall, Opaque Black1
Per Foot

I used the one labeled #3 above because I thought #4 was a little too thick for me, but that's just my preference.

My CodaBow Diamond SX with black surgical tubing:

UPDATE: I put the beige tubing on after a week because the consistency of the black tubing became more slick and hard over a few days of use. May be this is why most cellists use the beige tubing and not the black tubing!

How to put on surgical tubing onto your bow:
  • Lay down a towel or paper towel 
  • Measure the length of the section the tubing will cover and cut the tubing with sharp scissors (I used my kitchen scissors to cut the tubing)
  • Unscrew the end until the horsehair piece comes completely off
    • Wrap the hair with paper towel lengthwise or fold a towel over the horsehair to protect it from any drips
  • Use dish soap (I used my dish soap Palmolive - orange liquid)
    • Drizzle soap into the hole until it comes out the other side
    • Then wrap the tubing in a paper towel and gently/lightly flatten the tube to coat the inside evenly
    • Wipe off the extra soap that comes out 
  • Put the end screw back on before sliding the tubing on to prevent as much liquid from getting inside 
    • This might be helpful, but I haven't tried this: put a sticker or tape over the area where the frog attaches so liquid doesn't get inside. I ended up with too much liquid in mine and had to spend some time cleaning off the screw.
  • Slide it onto the bow 
    • It's easier to push from the end until it bunches up and then it'll slide forward - don't pull the tubing from the front
  • Attach the frog back onto the bow and screw the end back in
  • Push the tubing back over the frog 
  • Wipe off any excess dish soap 

WARNING (added 3/26/2012): Adding tubing can cause the bow's eyelet to be replaced sooner than later because twisting the endscrew with tubing over the frog causes added pressure, which prevents the frog from moving forward to tighten or loosen the hair as easily, which makes the eyelet and screw work harder. I replaced my eyelet a couple of months ago, and the bowmaker only charged me $25 to replace it, but I was lucky he had an eyelet that was able to fit my bow readily available, otherwise I would have had to wait for the part to be shipped to him.

Another blogger that came across this same issue:

Even though it does cause these issues, there are a lot of cellists that still use tubing, and I think that without the use of the Cellophant and tubing, I would still be struggling with my bowhold. 


  1. Thank you for this post! I could NOT get the tubing on my bow until I read this!

  2. Thanks for this. I'm a beginning cellist and I'm sick of the bow slipping out of my grip.

  3. i'm so glad to read your post. i had never been able to get good information on how to acquire tubing for my bow... not even from my teacher. just purchased some today. so happy.
    thanks for your post!!

    1. You're welcome! Just curious, but did you go with the beige or black bow? :)

  4. Thanks for your post.

    We are manufacturer of surgical rubber goods from India. Visit us for wide range of surgical rubber bands, surgical rubber tubing, surgical rubber sheeting, rubber surgical tubing, latex surgical tubing retailers etc.

  5. Why would you use soap in the tubing?? I have a valuable bow and wouldn't consider using soap on the bow. Why not oil or wax?

  6. Cellophant and surgical tubing for my cello bow. My shoulders and arms are more tense than most - I think it stems from my slight curvature of ...

  7. Very helpful information. Can you tell me where got the tubing?

  8. Hi! Those of us with wooden bows should probably be leery of using soapy water. A dusting of corn starch is safer and helps enormously.